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Older student, no career – thoughts?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by megacurie, Apr 28, 2007.

  1. megacurie


    Apr 28, 2007
    Hi everyone, first post to the forums here.

    I'm currently about a month and a half from earning my BS in engineering (nuclear) and I already have been accepted into grad school for next fall. The problem is I'm not interested in engineering. I've been interested in radiation oncology for a long time; however, I've been put off to the idea due to my age. I'm 31 right now, and if I go through the grad program I'll be 33 when I finish and begin a MD program (if accepted). From what I understand, older students are expected to have all these experiences and careers and whatnot. I don't have any of that, before I went to college to work on my engineering degree I was a cook as well as a high school dropout. I just don't feel like I have this really large base of relevant things to draw from. While Ive been in school I have honor societies and elected leadership positions but thats about it.

    At this point in time I'm thinking about getting the MS in radiation health physics perhaps, and taking care of prerequisites next year such as general biology and o-chem. I'd probably have to go the MS route vs. postbac route due to funding issues. So what is your opinion on this? It's encouraging to see others older than me going for it, but do you think based on what I said that I am at a severe disadvantage?
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  3. Sol Rosenberg

    Sol Rosenberg Long Live the New Flesh! 10+ Year Member

    Feb 11, 2006
    Living in America
    Not really sure what you are asking, but my advice would be to have a good answer as to why Rad. Onc. and not Nuclear Engineering. Also, one of the things that I learned in this process is that you need to have an "angle." I'm sure that there are things that you have done to distinguish yourself as an applicant -- you just need to go back and think of them. Doing the masters for 2 years will buy you some time to get some clinical experience, which will help you answer the question about why Rad. Onc., and will definitely help your (according to you) unspectacular application.
  4. ut2010

    ut2010 Medical Student 2+ Year Member

    Apr 11, 2007
    I think if you are interested in medicine, getting your M.S. would be an ideal strategy. You will be able to complete your pre-req's and take higher level courses, both are key to showing the adcoms that you are capable.

    Another key is to get some healthcare experiences, makes sure you want to do this.

    Both volunteering and working in a clinical environment would be ideal, they will help to reinforce your interest in medicine and give you plenty to talk about in your application essays as well and in interviews.

    Don't worry about your age, adcoms like applicants in their 30's ....they have a life experience and a maturity level that benefits their classmates.

    I am much older (!) than you and I am doing fine in medical school, it is hard but doable if it is your passion.
  5. koennen

    koennen Lend Me An Ear 10+ Year Member

    Oct 30, 2006
    Philadelphia, PA
    The guy is getting a degree in Nuclear Engineering. Last time I checked, that curriculum required courses beyond Introduction to Fractions and Our Friend the Earth. :laugh: :laugh:
  6. Gene_

    Gene_ 10+ Year Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    The nuclear physicist at our hospital works closely with with rad/onc doc at he didn't have to go through med school. If you decide on med school, who cares that you don't have relevant experience? You lived. That gives you a perspective that 22 year old college grads don't have. Good luck.
  7. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    I only think you're at a severe disadvantage if *you* think you are. It may surprise you to hear this, but you do not have to be perfect or superhuman to get into medical school, make it through medical school, or be an excellent physician. The experiences you have had are certainly unique (yeah, I don't think there are any former HS dropouts in my class!), but why look at that as a negative? You have the quintessential rags-to-riches all-American kind of story. Somehow, you went from being a HS dropout and cook to being a college graduate in nuclear engineering and now maybe applying to med school! I don't even know a single additional thing about you, but it's already a fascinating story and I want to learn more.

    Right now, you should work on the following things:

    1) Ace your pre-reqs and MS classes. If you don't have the grades, you won't be a competitive applicant. That's true no matter what age you are.

    2) Ditto for the MCAT. Take the pre-reqs, do well in them, study hard for the MCAT, and show your stuff.

    3) Get some clinical experience over the next two years while you're in grad school, and preferably some service experience too. Medical schools want to know that you have some idea of what you're getting into and that you are willing to serve others even when there's not always something tangible in it for you.

    4) Use your life experiences to your advantage instead of looking at them as a drawback. Do you think that your patients will all be highly educated, well-motivated professionals? Maybe they will be if you have a boutique practice in the ritzy end of a large city, but there's a reason why most med schools are located in the inner cities or else somewhere rural in the middle of nowhere. How many med students do you think understand the difficulties of living the kind of working-class life that many of your patients will be living better than you do? Why would you think that your experience could possibly make you LESS qualified to empathize with the people you will be serving as a physician compared with med students who have never had these experiences?

    You know what you have to do to succeed, and the one person who can make it all happen is you. If medicine is your dream, don't *you* be the person who slams the door shut in your own face. Any (wo)man who can accomplish what you already have done can definitely handle a few pre-med courses. :luck: to you. :)
  8. AuburnPreVet

    AuburnPreVet AU CVM Class of 2011 5+ Year Member

    Nov 10, 2004
  9. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion 10+ Year Member

    Oct 30, 2006
    I suggest that you not view your background as a liability. You had a job and paid bills and that's a career. What you learned and experienced as a cook, and what happened to get you into a more academic career, and what you have to say about these things could make you a very, very compelling candidate. My background includes bartending, graveyards at 7-11, waiting tables and cleaning toilets. And I view these experiences as assets, unquestionably.

    I also suggest that you find a way to volunteer or shadow at a radiation oncology practice, and find out everything you can about what makes that world go around. The actual doctors may not be doing the work that you find interesting. Nurses will have very interesting things to say about the value provided by the docs. Techs will have very interesting things to say about who they respect in delivering good engineering. Working for the firm that makes the machines might be the biggest impact on patient life quality.

    Lastly, one exercise I put myself through when I picked this path was to describe the job I want without using the word "doctor." I'd been stuck on needing the prestige and income that I'd had in my software career. Prestige and income weren't enough to keep me in software; why should I assume they'd be enough to keep me happy in medicine? So I needed to differentiate the job of a physician from that of a nurse or tech or science professor or PA or logistics coordinator. In all honesty, if there's any job I want to do as much as I want to be a doctor, the other job wins, since I'm 40 and will lose 10 years to training.

    Best of luck to you, and keep us posted.
  10. megacurie


    Apr 28, 2007
    Thanks for the replies everyone, I really appreciate it.

    That shouldnt be too hard. While I love all things radioactive, nuclear engineering is a drag, from my experience its all about running computer simulations all day =\ To be having a positive impact on peoples lives on a day to day basis would be 1000x more fufilling.

    Any tips on how to get something that would provide meaningful expereince? From what Im told the hospital here randomly assigns volunters, and I very well may end up sorting paperwork.

    Yeah, I have looked into it, I had a chance to shadow one this past fall. It was pretty interesting, med physics is my "plan B" right now

    I think youre onto something here. Part of my inspiration comes from that. Growing up I didnt have health insurance. Even now at 31 I still dont. I remember back to times when I was in need of medical attention, and kept not going because we couldnt affort it. Finally when I had blood poisioning traveling up my leg, an excruciating toothache I been ignoring for several months, or a deep wound to be stitched up I had no choice but to go and those docs were heroes to me. They have long forgotten me as some were almost 20 years ago, but I have never forgotten them, there is a good chance I would still recognize them to this day if seen in public. (your icon cracks me up by the way!)

    Thanks again everybody for the replies/support. Ill be sure to post an update when things start happening.
  11. newdocoldage


    Apr 30, 2007
    I have the same dillemma right now, I am 40 and want to study medicine, have been accepted in a caribbean school, should I go?
  12. futureboy

    futureboy 7+ Year Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    OP, get health insurance NOW--you're playing with fire. Don't they have it at your school? If not, you can probably get individual insurance for $100-$150/mo. You don't want a $20,000+ medical bill or a bankruptcy on your record when you're applying to med school. If you think the doc/hospital won't sue you, think again. They WILL. I'm a lawyer and have represented docs and hospitals suing for unpaid bills.
  13. Skellington

    Skellington New Member 5+ Year Member

    Jun 1, 2004
    In your 30s you can get private PPO health insurance (Aetna, Blue Shield, etc.) with somewhere around a $2 million cap and $5,000 yearly maximum out-of-pocket for as little as $120 a month. It's an amazing bargain considering what could happen to you if you need expensive care. I agree with the above poster, you are taking incredible risk for little reason. If I were an ADCOM and knew this about you I would wonder why someone with experience would take such a risk - implies poor judgment to me.

    Just a friendly opinion (light criticism)....

  14. Sol Rosenberg

    Sol Rosenberg Long Live the New Flesh! 10+ Year Member

    Feb 11, 2006
    Living in America
    I was thinking the same thing, but didn't want to be so harsh to the OP. But, then again, not having health insurance IS one of the most irresponsible things one can do, IMHO. Just ask my parents who owe doctors over 2 MILLION dollars. They thought health insurance was too expensive. No, I'm not kidding or exaggerating for effect. They owe so much money to so many people that I don't think they really know the total.
  15. Doctor Bagel

    Doctor Bagel so cheap and juicy Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I guess I haven't been able to find plans like that, especially since I'm female (read, need maternity coverage) and since I have some very minor health issues that I take prescription medication for. I think the cheap rates are for the guys and for those who never go to the doctor.

    Right now, we're paying $300/month for the two of us with no where near $2 million in coverage. In fact, I think our max is around $100k, and we have no stop loss, which means we could owe what feels like millions if we get cancer or anything horrible like that even though we have insurance. I guess I don't share this optimism about readily available affordable insurance because I haven't seen it personally. BTW, this is my pos school policy.
  16. Critical Mass

    Critical Mass Guest

    Feb 23, 2007
    I agree with everything Q said.

    Just make sure that you don't restrict yourself to rad onc if you decide to attend medical school. After 4 years of medical school, you will have had very little exposure to that specialty.

    PGY programs in rad onc are extremely competative (think between diagnostic radiology and derm, some would put it at the derm level) because there aren't very many spots available for that sort of training.

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